Lisa rode down in the clattering elevator, the floor of the car littered with cleaning supplies. When she reached the ground floor, she wrestled the elevator gate open, then quickly dragged the pail, broom, brush, and other things out, closing the gate before piling her arms full and heading toward the double doors that led to the main entrance and, beyond, to the dining room and kitchen.
As she came to the first door, she heard a shout from up ahead. “By the algorithms!” Startled, she nearly dropped her load, but she managed to wrestle first one door, then the other, open and hurried out.
In the entranceway, she saw Canergak and Kasa standing there. Canergak looked nearly as angry as he had after Myn had attacked Beatrixe and Tepic. “Give me every detail,” he was saying urgently.
“A cougar,” Kasa said. “He stood as tall as Ms. Book when standing up straight. He kept saying he was looking for his sister, and carried a belt similar to a patient Dr. Viper helped last year. One you might know – Lilith.”
“Lilith… that child. Yes, I am familiar with her in passing.” Canergak stroked his beard contemplatively.
“Right now, I am testing the chemical vials I found in his belt. I fear they may be like her – so far, I’ve found similar compounds.” She paused. “According to Ms. Book, this same creature was the one who attacked Wisp last year, bringing down my home.”
“Indeed. That is troubling. Perhaps she was the only one that did not succumb to…” He paused. “Were you or anyone else besides Dr. Viper injured? A scratch, a bite, anything that could pass on infection.”
Kasa held up her right arm. “The creature clawed me good. But there was another – a white wolf who could not speak normally, but seemed to be understood by the cougar. He got clawed in the face.”
Canergak took her arm roughly, studying the wound closely. Lisa hissed quietly at the sight of it, but Kasa looked unconcerned. “It was treated as soon as the cougar left,” she said.
“ I am not worried about natural infection at the moment,” Canergak said shortly, releasing her arm. “I was looking for traces of something far more serious. I trust you have heard of unnatural creatures such as vampires and werewolves.”
Kasa nodded. “My old man talked a lot of such things. It’s why I carry this.” She drew a small silver dagger. “I never go around without being cautious.”
Canergak waved his hand vaguely, his eyes clicking faintly as he continued to look Kasa over. “Hmmm,” he finally said. “It would appear that you have not been corrupted.”
Sheathing her dagger, Kasa said, “I should heal up relatively fast. But right now, the other nurses are concerned, as we do not have an active doctor at the hospital.”
“Yes, that is a problem,” replied Canergak, sighing. “I will need to hire a new Chief of Medicine. In the meantime, who has stepped forward? If anyone?”
“Well, Dr. Viper taught me quite a bit,” Kasa hesitantly mentioned. “I’ve been trying to keep things in line there.”
“Very well, do everything that you must. I shall consider the resumes I have for now and determine who is most suited at a later date.” Canergak turned around abruptly. “Lisa,” he said impatiently.”
“Sir.” She looked at him over her armful of cleaning supplies, her eyes uncertain.
“Do you recall the wolf you first tried to ‘help’ escape from these walls?”
“I want you to go with Acting Dr. Kasa, and learn first hand how dangerous these things truly are. You will never believe me, I am certain. Perhaps they can show you this error in your beliefs.”
Lisa looked from him to Kasa, and back to Canergak. “Yes, sir.”
“Also, call the Captain. Captain Hienrichs. I wish to speak with her.” Lisa’s final “Yes, sir” was directed his back, as he went back through the doors. Lisa looked around, shrugged, and dropped her pile on the bench, following Kasa out the front door.
“Kasa, what happened?” she asked urgently as they trotted north toward the half-built hospital.
“It seems this creature is looking for Lilith,” replied Kasa, her voice jarred a bit by her running stride. “But no one knows where she is. So far, the only people we know have been attacked were connected to her.”
“You were attacked?” Lisa was appalled that something like that would happen to the gentle nurse.
“Yes.” Kasa nodded, as they went inside the empty, unfinished entranceway. “It said I smelled of ‘sister.’ I said I had no clue who he was talking about, and he attacked, and got my arm. Then Dr. Viper came out, and he got Viper… fatally.” She brought Lisa to a table, serving as a makeshift bier for the form of the reptilian doctor. His body was covered by a sheet, which showed numerous bloodstains from the wounds he had received.
Lisa inhaled sharply. “Oh, Kasa. I’m sorry.” While she herself had been rather afraid of the strange doctor, she knew Kasa had worked closely with him. They stood in silence a moment, looking down at Dr. Viper. But whatever Canergak might have hoped would happen, Lisa’s mind was not changed. Some such creatures were dangerous, of course – she’d known that from the beginning. But that did not mean all were. Finally, she awkwardly patted Kasa on the shoulder, and left to find Captain Hienrichs.
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